In late summer of 2010 I sat down with producer Don Dixon to play him a batch of songs I had written for a new album. Dixon's idea early on was to make the record more 'stylized' than ever before. What that meant was to forgo the usual formula: write songs, hire band, rehearse, book studio, record and produce. It involves influences and ideas from different sources, your musicians, the sound of the studio, and the limited time you have to work. In that environment there is a lot of pressure to 'get the take.' That can be good, and can be limited. The idea was to set up in my basement, set up all the equipment necessary, and just have the 2 of us record the album. Face to face, using drum tracks and percussion by Jim Brock and other sources.
ACETATE was finally begun in May of 2010. By that point I had thrown away most of the material I had played for Don, with a couple of exceptions. About 95 percent of the album was written that Winter of 2010. 2 of the songs, 'Man Who Shook the World' and 'People Need Targets' were written during the recording of the album.
The recording itself was a very organic process, which may seem strange given there was no band there. We went track by track building, adding, stripping away until we could, as Don would say, 'Get something we could stand.'
A few tracks such as 'Immediate Blue', 'Burn Down the Road' and 'Together We Are' are just live takes. But those takes were set up sonically beforehand, and I can hear how that effected the actual performance.
The sessions went on for a month with the final track being 'Together We Are.' It was a song that had a different arrangement and key when we first recorded it….the very first track of the session. Throughout the course of making the album this song was always with me.
Every morning before Don arrived I would come up with different ways of playing this song. We were never really satisfied with it.
I had thought about keeping if off the album, when on the final day I came up with a version right before he arrived. I was playing it in my laundry room, and he said let's record it, there's your version. He asked what kind of arrangement I had in mind, I said how about right here and there in the laundry room. Don rigged up a mic in my boot on the floor, draped another one on the clothes line and a few minutes later we had a take.
It was that kind of immediacy, that kind of a creative spark that I loved most about recording ACETATE. It reminded me of when I first started tinkering with recording in Oxford, OH with rosavelt songwriting partner Kevin Grasha. There were no rules, there was no studio clock, just a song and the dream to make something out of it…and if you didn't you just erase it and start over.
ACETATE was an album recorded with the hopes of breaking some new sonic ground, but in the process it brought me back to the beginning.